We get it. It can be annoying when you have a question and just want a simple answer but can’t get it. But lumber is a naturally occurring organic material. As such, it’s not made to order. All we can really do is describe and study it, predicting how various species will behave under certain conditions. When we realize that wood truly is “the ultimate green building material,” we can appreciate its unique beauty and realize that trying to understand and work with it is truly a worthwhile endeavor. Okay, rant over. You had a question, right? Something about acclimation of decking lumber? Well, your question is valid; however, it has a far-from-simple answer.
In Part 1, we asked a couple important follow-up questions that related directly to the lumber itself. Now we’ll consider two more questions, but these are about your planned method of operation for installation.
Which Installation Method Do You Plan To Use?
The two basic decking installation methods are face-screwing and clip systems. If you choose the former option, your boards will be restrained, allowing for less movement than if you’re using the latter. While clips require a screw to run through the clip and into part of the grooved edge, this method will not guard against cupping. What does that mean for your acclimation timeline? If you choose to face-screw your decking boards, as long as you utilize proper gap spacing procedures, you can pretty much begin installation right away. If you’re using clips instead, you’d do well to stack and cover the boards near your installation site and let them sit for at least a couple weeks, allowing most movement that will occur to happen prior to installation.
Where Is Your Installation Site?
It’s important to consider not only the moisture level and climate of your locale, but also that of your lumber supplier. The important thing here is the discrepancy (if any) between the two locations. Another significant consideration is the conditions where the boards will be installed. For stability, a deck requires ventilation under the boards; however, we realize that may not always be possible. If the deck will be exposed to a high degree of sunlight, it can be a significant factor as well.
If there’s a great disparity in climate between the lumber supplier and your job site, your boards will need extra time. If after installation, your decking boards won’t have good ventilation or will be exposed to plenty of sunlight, they’ll need extra time, too. A week of being stacked and covered on the job site will usually be enough time to make up for any site-related issues. You may wish to leave the shipping banding in place for this initial acclimation period.
At the end of the day, you’ll never go wrong by giving a little longer for the wood to acclimate. Keeping it stacked and covered as long as you can — 2 weeks should be plenty — will help your decking lumber acclimate to almost any environment.